Sunday, January 9, 2011

New Years 2011: Greensky Bluegrass 12.31.10

Words & Photos By J-man

With all of the amazing options for New Years Eve, I felt the pressure lifted as soon as I saw that Greensky Bluegrass would be in town. As that night would mark my first New Year outside of Michigan, it was comforting to have a slice of home on the menu. It also didn't hurt to have one of my favorite bluegrass bands filling that slot. Greensky helped to add a little bit of spice to our New Years jam palate.

Coming from King Pigeon at Quixote's, we arrived at Cervantes already warmed up. The venue was about half packed with young folks ready to get down. First to hit the stage was singer and guitarist Danny Barnes. His style was extremely unique. He picked through odd melodies and chords with ease as he sang his well crafted folk style love tunes. It was easy to see how Danny has come to effect/influence so many different bands.

It's not easy to get up on stage in front of a raging crowd and open with just a guitar. Furthermore, even greater challenges arise when it comes to entertaining the crowd. Danny Barnes succeeded with a soft-spoken voice and a smile on his face. Before long, his set concluded. I knew this would not be the last we would see of Danny for the evening.

The anticipation grew in the room as the stage sat vacant. Party favors were being handed out, the balloons were restrained in the netting waiting for the new year and the venue started to approach capacity. With a roar from the crowd, Greensky Bluegrass took the stage. I wondered where this evening would go, and what surprises Greensky would have up their sleeves.

The first set began with drawn out, and well thought out jams. They seemed to explore the bounds of the bluegrass/rock genre. One Beatles tune led to two... Then three, four, five, etc. Concluding with Greensky playing the whole B-side of "Abbey Road". The crowd was into it, and though I wasn't initially excited about their choice of antics, I did find myself enjoying the music. Paul Hoffman (Mandolin) did a great job covering the vocal aspect of the material, as the rest of the band backed Paul. You could feel the energy between the band and the crowd, at times the crowd singing louder than the band.

Set break brought a lot of spaced out conversation and increased anticipation of the second set. After some time, I glanced down at my cell phone to see that midnight was approaching. I looked back up to the stage to see Greensky taking the stage with "Stop That Train"...

The second set featured some great instrumentation and original Greensky tunes. With Danny Barnes as a guest on several songs, Dave Bruzza (Guitar), Michael Bont (Banjo) and Anders Beck (Dobro), Michael Devol (Bass) & Paul tore apart the stage.

As the night progressed, the crowd (myself included) got sloppier and sloppier, until there was just music. I closed my eyes and could feel it to my core. Though my plans for the evening were extensive, I spent my energy on Greensky.


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